Julian Assange’s secret love affair
It's a secret love story tinged by fear.
Unknown to the world, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had a fiancee and fathered two young boys while holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
Constantly watched by security guards, the couple's love blossomed in secret.
Now Assange's fiance Stella Moris, 37, has spoken out to 60 Minutes about the surreal life she has lived for the last five years, her plea for Australia to help and the fear she feels for her two sons Gabriel, 3, and Max, 14-months.
She describes plots to kidnap Assange, poison him, steal the couple's oldest son Gabriel's dummy and nappy to collect his DNA to prove the 48-year-old Aussie was the boy's father - even allegations his confidential appointments with doctors and lawyers was spied on by the CIA inside the embassy.
60 Minutes presenter Tara Brown said the allegations read like a "terrible spy novel".
"Stella, you have been Julian Assange's great secret, perhaps his best surprise yet," Brown said.
Stella, a legal researcher, replied: "Yeah, it's quite something that one of the most surveilled people on the planet managed to carve out a space for a family and a partner.
"It wasn't easy, but I think if you're with someone you love, you can make impossible situations possible."
Currently held in Britain's maximum-security jail HMP Belmarsh, despite having already served his 50-week sentence for breaching bail, Assange is desperately fighting attempts to extradite him to the US to face espionage charges.
"I don't want our lives to be determined by an incredible injustice. I have the certainty of his love, and he has the certainty of my love. We have an incredibly strong bond," Stella said.
"We have two children who love their father. That's what matters."
The WikiLeaks founder is accused of releasing three quarters of a million highly classified military documents and videos relating in 2010. He faces 17 espionage charges which - if convicted - could see him sentenced to 175 years in jail.
He spent seven years holed up in London's Ecuadorean Embassy while he was on bail over sexual assault charges which he strongly denies and has which have now been dropped by Swedish prosecutors. While there, he regularly hit the headlines, most notoriously for his high-profile visitors such as former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.
There was even speculation that Anderson and Assange were in a relationship, rumours the actress did little to play down.
However, unknown to the world, Assange was also a doting dad and his sons were snuck into the embassy with the help of British actor Stephen Hoo who pretended to be the boys' father.
Suspicions were raised within the embassy and a dirt file was compiled on Hoo, who identifies as gay. There was even a plot to obtain the DNA of three-year-old Gabriel by stealing his dummy and nappy to prove the boy's parentage. Whistleblowers tasked to obtain the items told the couple they were working for the US secret service.
"It was mainly a security concern and that's why we went to extreme measures of me trying to not expose my pregnancy, bringing in Gabriel to the embassy with a friend who would pose as the father, just so that Julian would be able to see his son regularly," Stella said.
"You don't take these steps lightly. You only do this if you think that there's a very serious security risk."
Describing her elicit love affair with Assange as "very romantic", Stella admits she is constantly wracked with fear that harm will come to her fiance and their two sons.
"It was tolerable because we were able to create a haven, a private oasis and to
create life. And with life there's hope," Stella told 60 Minutes.
"We do have these two little boys who are wonderful. There's a future for our family together.
Describing the moment Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorean Embassy in April 2019 and taken into police custody, she said: "We knew it was coming, but I never thought it would be as brutal and as brazen as that."
Stella met Assange, an accomplished legal researcher who previously worked for the United Nations. She joined his team working on helping to clear his name.
"When I first met him, I felt so fortunate that I was able to meet this person who had changed the world really with WikiLeaks," Stella said.
"It was a game changer. Everything was possible.
"We grew closer and became friends and watched movies together and I just loved spending time with him.
"It was very romantic and cautious and very sweet.
"Would I change anything? Yes of course we would have the freedoms everyone else, the romantic dinners in a restaurant and strolling by the beach. But you can still have a lot of that in a tiny room in the embassy.
"It's romantic anyway."
Stella said the couple's relationship was a well-kept secret but she felt like she was constantly being watched. However, he did have private spaces including his bedroom and office.
"I got pregnant twice while he was in the embassy," she said. "I guess I just piled on layers and complained about getting fat. But yes, he had his private spaces. That's all one needs to have a relationship."
The first time she got pregnant, she had to write it on a piece of paper to tell him as there were "microphones everywhere".
Assange was unable to be with her while she gave birth and most of her child-rearing has been done alone, peppered with regular visits to the embassy and later HMP Belmarsh.
"I mean Julian was by my side on the phone when I had both Max and Gabriel. That was
an incredible salve, even through childbirth," she said.
"I think it was as strong as painkiller. But of course, I've been deprived of having him hold my hand while I was giving birth."
Stella has gone to great lengths over the last five years to keep her identity and that of her boys secret. But she has now spoken out in the hope the Australian Government will step in to help Assange fight extradition to the US.
"The real issue was I thought that our family would be targeted by the same people that were trying to harm Julian in a bid to harm him," she said about keeping the relationship under wraps.
"He's very unwell and I'm very concerned for his ability to survive this. And now he's in the UK's worst prison, HMP Belmarsh Prison, which they nickname it Britain's Guantanamo Bay. And it's a high security prison, one in five prisoners are murderers.
"He shouldn't be there. He's not a criminal, he's not a dangerous person. He's a gentle
intellectual, a thinker, and a journalist. And those people are not the people who belong in prison.
"I saw him on the Sunday before lockdown started and we've been able to speak every day. But I'm very worried.
"If you're separated from your family and you're alone in a room, a tiny dark room for 23 hours a day with no control over your surroundings, I think people can imagine what that's like.
"Well, I think any person would get very severely depressed. And he is very depressed."
Of the threats to kidnap and potentially poison Assange, Stella said, "I think it's hard for people to understand that such lawlessness is possible.
"So there's incredible criminality that has been going on in order to gather information about Julian's lawyers, and his family, and journalists who were visiting him.
"It's shocking and I'm very fearful. I've been in a permanent state of fear for years and now it's slowly playing out.
"If Australia doesn't step in, I'm very fearful that this wrong won't be righted.
WHAT SHOULD AUSTRALIA DO?
"It's a nightmare and it has to stop. Not because he has to be treated differently, but because he has to be treated the same as everyone else, he has rights."
One person who is on Assange's side is Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie, a former military intelligence officer turned Iraqi war whistleblower
"I hope many people would agree when an Australian is overseas and in strife, there is at least a moral obligation on the Australian government to come to their aid whereas in this case, the Australian government has basically hung Julian Assange out to dry, being more interested I think in cow towing to Washington as is the case with the British government," he said.
"The substantive issue is that Julian Assange revealed hard evidence of US war crimes, in Iraq and Afghanistan, of the inhumane treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, that's the substantive issue.
"Picture this, you know, we've got one lone Australian sitting in his cell in HMP Belmarsh high
security prison, up against the might of the United States military intelligence and legal systems.
"There's nothing fair about that when all he did was the right thing.
"The allegation is made that he dumped a whole lot of material and he endangered people. "The fact is there is no evidence of anyone getting hurt."
Stella added, "I want people to understand that we're being punished as a family. It's not just Julian in the prison. It's the kids that are being deprived of their father.
"It's me that's being deprived. I need Julian and he needs me. I'd like to ask Scott Morrison to do everything he can to get Julian back to his family."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne were contacted by 60 Minutes but declined to be interviewed.
In a statement, the government said our High Commission in London had written to Julian Assange multiple times, offering consular assistance he had so far ignored to take that up.
Originally published as Julian Assange's secret love affair